Written by Adebola Oni
After a pretty long break, we are BACK and for GOOD! :)
Today, NaijaMotivation is running the interview we had with a wonderful lady that is VERY passionate about change! You are going to learn so many things from this interview and you will definitely be inspired by our Role Model for today, Oluwatoyin Ajao.
Without wasting time, just read all the great things you need to discover about this young Nigerian!
May We Know You Please?
I am Oluwatoyin Ajao also known as Toyin Ajao. I am 32 years old and was born and raised in Ikirun, Osun State Nigeria. I am a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University where I studied accounting but did a lot of political activism. I am a feminist, security and information activist and I am also a blogger (blog url: http://genderandme.blogspot.com).
I am currently a Peace and Security fellow at King’s College, London. Before taking up the fellowship, I worked with Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (WTEC) as the Project Coordinator. I have also worked with Development Information Network (DEVNET), communicating for Change (CFC) and Baobab for Women’s Human Rights. And I am an ardent cat lover.
Can you tell us what growing up was like?
I have a lot to say about what growing up was like for me, but it will be good to summarise: I grew up in a polygamous home with me being the last child of the whole lots with brothers and sisters that already have children my age and beyond.
My mother (RIP) was a stern disciplinarian with a tender heart, a side which she showed at the wrongest of times with me. I grew up not believing we liked each other. I was raised in a rural setting where though I have a popular and chieftaincy family but money was not available for the most basic things of life when I was born.
Are you married?
Yes, I have being married for 3 years to a wonderful partner and friend, Olaleye Dawodu who shares the values of equality and social justice as I do.
Great! There is surely nothing like having a partner that believes in what you are doing. I am used to asking this question and I will do same today. The day that changed your life, can you remember, and can you share with us please?
There are many significant events and days that still contribute to my life changing experiences as well as the change I seek to see in the world. But there is a particular turning point in my life in 2003 shortly before my mum departed this world and after her exit when I discover that I am the only one that can make or mar my future.
Where I have to pay the ultimate sacrifice of not letting misplaced and misguided religious, traditional and cultural beliefs through their different agents ruin my life or what I stand for.
Hmmm. I will follow you up on that and I will like you to expatiate, for the sake of someone reading this today. I will like you to tell us more about that in the journey of your life so far. How did you get started and how has it been all the way?
Getting started can be traced back to my early years as a child where I realized that being a girl child seemed to have its own societal imposed difficulties. I wondered a lot as a child as to why I could not play football, why I had to be the one washing and cooking because I am a girl and when I particularly hated those chores. I was further exposed to the real situations of what women faced on a daily basis in my family and environment. And since then I had the determination to do things differently and that was my starting point.
Over the years, I have seen that there are injustice everywhere and that I am not the only one being repulsed by all these occurrences. Teaming with those that shared values for change has helped and developing myself to be able to contribute my quotas and it has being a great benefit as well.
Tell us Toyin, what exactly has been the role of dreams in your life?
Dreams remain the catalyst for what can be and what will be if we reach within and push, and push and push ourselves beyond the limits of what we think we are capable of.
Dreams have given me hope over the years, dreams had renewed my energy and dreams have helped me get very focus. When you dream and give it a push, one of two things will happen, either you succeed or fail. And in every failure or success, there is a message to take and lessons to learn…
I love the last line about lessons to learn in our failures or successes! Thanks so much for that message. Now let me ask this, do you have any regret following your dreams?
There are times that I feel depressed about the fact that as much as we try to make a difference in our own little ways and in our little corners of the world, a lot of atrocities keep taking place and undermining the dream of a better world. But given up is not an option…
I feel you Sister! No matter what, giving up is no option! We have to keep doing our part in making the world a better place! This is another question I love asking, what is/are the most important lesson(s) you have learnt in life?
The most important lesson of my life is that the only selfless service to humanity is to be tolerant and considerate of one another within the space of our fundamental human rights. To know that diversity is the key and to always treat one another, regardless of age, position, race, culture, religion etc, with respect.
I am sure someone out there is noting this down. This is a very great lesson to learn. When we respect each other, peace will reign in our world! Thank you so much Toyin for sharing this. Do you have Role Models/Mentors?
I have got loads of mentors both in my professional and personal life. Many of whom are not chosen but came from what they offer and how they imparted my life through their courage, contributions and values.
The same goes for role models; I pick role models from time to time and learn one or two things from their ways of life, their values, their principles and contributions to the society and social justice.
I can mention a few of these amazing women and men that I have come to respect and through whom I believe we can still make our marks – Dr. Funmi Olonisakin, Ore Somolu, Yemisi Ilo, Ngozi Nwosu Juba, Adora Nebo, John Githongo, Nelson Mandela, The late Rosa Parks, Prof. Obafemi Ajibola, Prof. Ademola Abass and Zeedah Meierhofer-Mangeli
You sure have loads of them! With this list I can now understand where all the passion for change is come from! :) I know you read a lot, so tell us what role has books played in your life?
I can say books are vital to life like food and water in which our existence will stop without. The right books open up one’s intellectual abilities and help to understand the world around us, our roles in it and how we can make a difference.
Do you have any recommended reading(s)?
I will like to recommend books that I am currently finding interesting and empowering. The insights that these books provided in relation to governance and security issues in Africa are worth looking at by everyone with burning flames of change in her/him.
The books are: It is our turn to eat – The story of Kenyan Whistle-blower by Michela Wrong, I didn’t do it for you – How the world abused a small nation by Michela Wrong, Dead Aid – why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa by Bambisa Moyo, Mandela Ways, The 15 lessons of Courage and Love by Richard Stengel and The Challenges of Security Sector Governance in West Africa by Alan Bryden, Boubacar N’Diaye and Funmi Olonisakin
What a list! Let me confess, this is the first time I am seeing recommended lisitings outside of Motivation and Entrepreneurship. Thanks for helping expand our knowledge base! We are close to rounding up now Toyin, so tell us, what would you have been doing if you are not doing what you are doing now?
Let’s assume that the world is perfect, we have everything we need, we have selfless governments in place and no violent conflicts or crimes anywhere in the world, I will probably be travelling the world, researching peoples’ ways of life, the magic and the magnificent of the universe.
What a way to live life. Another quick question, where do you see yourself in 5-10 years from now?
Probably running my organization where I will be focused on Human Security, African Security, Governance and Women’s rights. And if that does not happen I hope to be somewhere in the world working for an institution or an organization that focuses on the above issues, where I can also look back to see that the world is changing for good.
Great vision to have. At the rate you are going, it will SURELY happen! Please we will like to know how you catch fun in spite of your loaded schedules.
I watch loads and loads of movies, I listen to music, I dance a lot and I go clubbing when I am in a city with decent clubs and maximum security. I have fun with my friends, I like spending time with my partner and I love curdling my cats. Reading for me, is a way of relaxing too.
From all you listed above, I can conclude you sure know how to catch fun. :) Quickly, we will like to know, in your own opinion, how do you think Nigeria can be great again?
Nigeria will be great again, if we all change our attitudes and mindsets. A lot has to be done to have in place good institutional structures in governance to change the country. But if we do not change our own very attitudes and mindsets of saying “that is Nigeria for you”, “ that is the police for you”, “ of course bribery will never stop in Nigeria”, “ well, our leader can embezzle but they should deliver”, we will just keep accepting abnormality as normal and our voices will never be one.
True points there! Complacency has gotten us this far and it is time for a change. I believe you sister. Now as our parting shot, what advice for our readers, who are mostly youths?
We are the one that can be the change we seek to see in the world as stated by the great Mahatma Ghandi. Reach within yourself for that change, be diverse, be disciplined and then when your own house is in order, you can then go forth and reach out to the world.
WOW! Thanks your this wonderful advice! People, I am sure you have learnt so much from our role model for today, Toyin Ajao. You can print this interview out for regular reference or even download it in pdf for storage on your computer. Click on any icons at the top of the interview.
This is not the end, we still have so many wonderful young Nigerians that we are still bringing to this platform. Keep coming back and keep working on your dream as we will love to feature you on our platform pretty soon.
Adebola Oni (Author)